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Eyewitness testimony to be challenged at Emory symposium

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The "Eyewitness Identification Symposium," Friday, April 13 at Emory University School of Law will deconstruct the idea that the most convincing evidence comes from eyewitnesses. Sponsored by the school's Criminal Law Practice Society and the Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, the symposium will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Emory Law's Tull Auditorium, 1301 Clifton Rd.

Presenters include attorneys, law officers and criminologists who will discuss common factors leading to misidentification; suggested policies to increase identification accuracy; and social influences upon identification procedure. How shrinking state budgets affect policy reform to improve evidence collection and investigation procedures also will be discussed.

"I became interested in eyewitness identification evidence after interning at the Georgia Innocence Project," says organizer Molly Parmer, third-year law student and president of the Criminal Law Practice Society.

"GIP wanted to commemorate [its 10th anniversary] by expanding its mission from DNA exonerations to addressing the underlying causes of wrongful conviction, including faulty eyewitness evidence," Parmer said.

Another organizer is second-year student Reade Seligmann. Beyond his legal studies, Seligmann's perspective also is influenced by his experience as one of the three defendants falsely accused in the 2006 Duke Lacrosse case.

As an undergraduate at Brown University, Seligmann organized an eyewitness identification symposium that contributed to the creation of the Rhode Island Task Force, a committee of prosecutors, police, defense lawyers and researchers that examined the eyewitness identification procedures across the state and recommended policies to prevent wrongful arrests and convictions.

The conference is free and open to the public but registration is preferred. Register here.

Attendees are eligible to receive three free CLE credits, with sign up provided on the day of the symposium.

To learn more, email Molly Parmer.

Scheduled speakers include:

  • Jennifer Dysart, associate professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City;
  • Steve Saloom, policy director of the Innocence Project;
  • Louis Dekmar, chief of police, LaGrange, Ga.;
  • Kemuel "Kem" Kimbrough Sr., Emory Law class of 2000, Clayton County sheriff;
  • Liz Markowitz, Fulton County public defender.

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